Saturday 10 February 2018

Alternative Endings and a Deleted Scene: Salvage

This post talks discusses the ending of Novelette 3, Salvage.  
Haven't read it yet?  Download it here.  (If you haven't, you should probably hit this post up later.)

For those who've already finished all three...

Salvage was the first novelette I wrote of the trio; I came to know Geronimo first and spent time in the salvage yards before I'd fleshed out Tama and Bex's story (although I had outlined their basic arc).  It was in writing Geronimo that I got a better feeling for what needed to happen for Tama and Bex -- I knew Geronimo needed to meet other Gen2K anomalies -- because that's what they all are.  G needed hope and Tama and Bex were partly shaped in answer to Geronimo's need.

Before the ending you've read came into being, Salvage went through two major alternative versions;

Version 1:
Geronimo misses the pour to follow Tama home one night, unable to resist the mystery surrounding two highly unusual dress orders.  There he meets Bex and Tama's mother for the first time.  A lot of questions were answered in this version (including some the final version does not), but it was a little info-dumpy and it made Bex look like she existed to help Tama with his mother.  It got axed based on reader feedback.

Version 2:
Geronimo makes the dress delivery to Bex.  Questions about Bex, Tama and Dorothy are answered through Bex.  Bex says she cannot accept the dress, but Geronimo insists it is for her and leaves.  The story finishes with Geronimo and Tama meeting in the yard with a better understanding of each other and their only personal rules with a clear final image of their friendship.  This was okay, lacked a punch, said readers.

Which brings us to Version 3, the version you've read, which ends with a wedding.  Multiple readers said they felt Tama and Bex's romantic narrative is what really underpins all three novelettes, and if it begins with a meet-cute, it should end with a wedding.  They felt robbed that they'd been told of a Match Ceremony but weren't given access.

I was reluctant to write a wedding, because a) I like open endings and b) I needed time to consider how such a bright ending could work in a world I hoped I'd painted to only have shimmers of light piercing the bleak.  After some percolation time, I rewrote the story with a Match Ceremony, even introducing a potential love interest for Geronimo in Grace (a character from the novel, yet to be released).  What changed my mind?  Finding the right tone.  By stealing some of the focus from Tama and Bex with a lighter interaction between Geronimo and Grace I found a scene I was comfortable ending on (i.e. I avoided writing something that felt like it should be accompanied by violins playing, doves circling and a soft-focus lens close-up).

Of all that was lost in the cuts and edits from Version 1, to Version 2, to the final version, this is the part I was saddest to lose.  It takes place right after Geronimo has learned about how Tama has decided to help his mother manage her dementia (by enabling her delusion of being pregnant for some time each day).   Setting: Tama's kitchen.  Geronimo has just followed Tama home, and Tama wasn't surprised at all.


After Geronimo finished his tea he placed his cup in the sink and looked to Tama.  “But doesn’t it hurt?  That she doesn’t know who you are?” 
“Not as much as seeing her pain was hurting,” Tama answered.
Geronimo looked at Bex, who at perched on the edge of Tama’s chair as though she was an extension of him and his equipment. 
“But you two could just…leave.  Go start a life somewhere without…all this to worry about.”  Geronimo scanned the compact kitchen.  “She’d never know.”
“But I’d know.  And she’s my ma.  Tama said, then let this sink in, his expression earnest.  “Any other questions?”  He asked with a small snort-like laugh.
Geronimo rolled a temptation over on his tongue.  “Yeah…what happened to your legs?”
“Yes?  How may I be of service?”  The And had lit up in its charging dock and now addressed Geronimo.
“What the…?”  Geronimo took a step back.
“Chill, Legs, he wasn’t talking to you.”  Tama’s words sent the And back into standby.
Bex smiled and looked through a fallen curl at Geronimo.  “Legs is the name of Tama’s And, you know, because…he’s does things Tama can’t.”
Geronimo blew breath out of his mouth, processing.
“My legs were an accident,” Tama said.  “Ma deteriorated pretty young…and well…that proved to be dangerous when you had a kid in tow who you…sometimes forgot about.”
Geronimo frowned in dismay.  “No…”
“It was my fault too.  I was the one who wanted to play on the tracks.  Three different Ands mobilised to remove me from harm, but…I wasn’t all the way out of the way when the El arrived.  Ma hadn’t been watching me.” Tama shrugged.  “But I knew better, even then.”  Bex leaned into Tama on his wheelchair.  Geronimo leaned back onto the kitchen counter.  “But hey – I’m not sad about it.  I’m here.  I can’t say as much for those Ands – two were beyond salvage and the third?  Well, his legs made it…and well…they became our Legs.
“Yes?  How may I be of service?”  The And again lit up in its charging dock.
“Chill, about you not to you.”
Tama continued; “Anyway, modern medicine worked wonders on restoring my limbs but nothing could be done for my nerves.  But I’m grateful for what I do have.  These babies.”  Tama spread his hand in front of him.  And Geronimo could tell he meant it.  The guy was grateful. 
“I’m sorry I charged you 10,000K for the dress.”  Geronimo said.
“Why?  It’s worth that.   You do good work, G.”  Tama nodded in supporting approval.
“Yeah, yeah it is.  And I do.”  Geronimo adopted his business persona.  So what.  He knew a little more about Tama.  He wasn’t going to give him pity discounts, his work was good.
But the guy hadn’t been cut many breaks.
Well, except for her.  Geronimo looked Bex over.  She melted into Tama as though they’d always been together.  She was always touching him, smiled easily, and radiated goodness.  And Geronimo realised then…she hadn’t once checked her phone…and they’d been together now at least half an hour. 
She was different.
And Tama knew it, and was really happy about it.
“Well, I’m glad I got to see who the dress was for.”  Geronimo said, pushing off of the counter.  “I mean, that’s why I came, just…to follow-up, you know?”
“You’re welcome anytime, G.”  Tama gave a small salute.
Geronimo didn’t know what to say to that, so he just inclined his head.
“I’ll show him out.”  Bex added.  Tama nodded and waved.
As old-world chimes sounded his exit, Geronimo gave a small shudder, as though shedding the cocoon of a dream.